Joey Mitchell, of the Morgan Hill Mustang Gold All-Stars, bunts

Morgan Hill’s Green and Gray All-Stars will compete in a section
tournament on the main field at Britton Middle School this week,
while the city’s Gold team plays in another one across campus
MORGAN HILL — Rick Martinez said that regionals mark the first true test of the All-Star season, and he has a good feeling his Morgan Hill Mustang Green team will be taking that test next week.

The manager of Morgan Hill’s top squad of 9-10-year-old has pitching, power and experience in each of his 12 players. Nine were Mustang All-Stars last year; others were part of a Pinto team that won the 2008 Morgan Hill Sectional.

“We have a good little team,” Martinez said Monday. “You don’t really know what you have until you make to regionals, though. That’s when you play big teams from places with bigger populations.

“If we play to our ability, we’ll make it there.”

To do so, the Green team must survive one of two six-team double-elimination Morgan Hill Sectionals being held this week at Britton Middle School. Morgan Hill’s Green and Gray All-Stars will compete in a tournament on the main field, while the city’s Gold team plays in another one across campus.

The first-place teams will advance to regionals.

“I like our chances,” said Martinez, whose team opens at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday against the No. 2 team from Los Altos. “We have talented veterans.”

The Green All-Stars are anchored by their solid core of Kekoa Bantilan, Anthony Picchi, Robbie Jeffries and Martinez’s son, Ricky. Those four play solid defense, hit the ball well and can even pitch.

“We’re about eight deep in pitching,” Martinez said. “We’ve got great team speed and good power.”

Each aspect was on display earlier this week when Green scrimmaged Gold at Britton.

“We weren’t keeping score, but they took it to us pretty good,” Gold manager Joey Mitchell said. “It helped us get ready for the kind of teams we’re going to be seeing this week.”

Composed mainly of 10-year-olds, Gold makes its debut at 5:30 this evening versus the top team from Fremont. As with any game at this level, victory will hinge on defense, one of Gold’s biggest strengths. Like their Green counterparts, the Gold All-Stars have a solid pitching staff headed by Andrew Mendoza, Michael Yamaguma, Jake Skar and Brian Martin.

The big hitters include Jordan Cardenas, Dalton Habina, Nick Hoefling and Mendoza.

“The kids are good with the bad and really good on defense, but we’re still brushing up,” Mitchell said. “I think we can go far in this tournament.”

Under manager P.J. Rochon, Morgan Hill’s Gray All-Stars are young, but well prepared for their 5:30 opener tonight against the No. 2 team from Fremont.

“I’ve got a couple of kids that haven’t done (All-Stars), so they’re excited,” Rochon said. “The veterans are excited, too.

“All-Stars always brings out another level of play.”

To instill camaraderie in a timely manner, Rochon scheduled four practice games against an assortment of All-Star teams.

“Everyone has to trust each other,” Rochon said when asked what the key to success is. “They’re starting to trust each other and build that in-game chemistry.”

Nerves have taken their toll on Gray’s hitting, but Christopher Knopf, Ethan Crawford, P.J. Rochon Jr., Joey Gustaveson and Dylan Holler have stepped up nicely at the plate, Rochon said. The scrappy bunch is a terror on the base paths.

“They bring a lot of passion,” Rochon said. “We have to play smart baseball; take what the other team gives us and go one base at a time.”

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